Wrote this one while I was away:
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’m probably what you’d call an occasional reader of fantasy- while I read a fair bit, I am pretty particular about what I read. I tend to get bogged down and put off by all of there x-son-of-y’s and whatever the latest bog-standard variant of orcs or evil empires are, and that stops me from really engaging with the story- the world tends to get in the way of the plot. The Name of the Wind has managed to cut through all of that, and as a consequence I found it gripping.
Kvothe, a former adventurer turned innkeeper, is living a quiet life in an isolated village. The arrival on his doorstep of a pack of demonic (for lack of a better term) creatures leads to him saving the life of a chronicler, who recognises him as the legendary hero. The book then takes the form of Kvothe recounting his early life to the scribe, interspersed with the ongoing life in the inn.
Kvothe’s life is interesting. starting as a member of a travelling troupe, Kvothe quickly displays an aptitude for learning, and he is tutored early on by a travelling mage. His life is turned upside down by the slaughter of his troupe by a group of mythic villains, and from here Kvothe’s life leads him through stages as a wild-child and a beggar/thief, before he finally arrives at the University where he learns the ways of magic.
While is is very much a coming-of-age story, Kvothe’s tutelage is not a Harry Potter-esque schooling. The University is serious and dangerous, and Kvothe must navigate the politics, rivalries and surrounding life of the uni.
What sets this book apart is the rich worldbuilding that’s almost in the background- I never felt like I was receiving an info dump, and the steady pace of new information is expertly handled. The cutting between Kvothe’s reminiscence and the “current day” narrative breaks the story up well, and the structure allows for a naturally conversational style. I was excited by the late-novel encounters with a dragon and the ongoing rivalry with another student, and Kvothe’s growth as a magician and pursuit of the band of godlike thugs that slaughtered his family hints at larger things to come.
To give you an idea of how drawn in to the story I was, not only did I finish it in four days, I went onto the Kindle store and immediately bought the next one!
I highly recommend this to anyone who’s into fantasy- not since I read A Song of Ice and Fire have I been this suckered into a fantasy novel, even though they are quite different. Do It.